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Shanghai Petitioners Detained in National Day Roundup

September 29, 2003

Human Rights in China (HRIC) has learned that in the early hours of September 30 Public Security officials carried out a large-scale roundup of at least 85 people in Beijing. According to HRIC’s sources, many of those arrested were people who had come from Shanghai to petition the authorities on urban redevelopment, and some of the arresting officers were Shanghai Public Security police.

According to HRIC’s information, Shanghai police officers arrived in four large buses at several hotels where the petitioners were staying and burst into the rooms of Shen Yongmei, Xiao Youqing, Chen Jun and others as they slept. The petitioners were searched and their cellular telephones were confiscated, after which they were bundled into the waiting buses. Nothing has been heard from the petitioners since the arrests.

An informed source told HRIC that Beijing police had repeatedly told petitioners from Shanghai and other places that Shanghai police officers would not be given permission to come to Beijing and arrest petitioners. However, such a wide-scale police operation is unlikely to have taken place without the cooperation of the Beijing police.

According to HRIC’s sources, the petitioners may have been arrested in preparation for China’s National Day on October 1. Beijing has a steady stream of petitioners from a number of places – including Beijing itself – calling for official action on the unjust conditions surrounding clearances and compensation of displaced residents. These petitioners are regularly subjected to crimes against their persons and property by members of the public, as well as suffering arbitrary arrest and physical abuse by the authorities. Especially at politically sensitive times such as China’s National Day, the rights of petitioners are sacrificed to ostensible concerns over maintaining public order.

HRIC deplores the use of China’s National Day as an excuse to deprive Chinese citizens of their right to peacefully petition the authorities. HRIC president Liu Qing says, “No public holiday is a sufficient pretext for infringing on human rights. The central government should take measures to keep local authorities from compounding the misery of those who are already suffering considerable hardship.”